New Zealand's Scott McLaughlin got the better of Supercars championship rival Jamie Whincup in another epic battle between the pair at Phillip Island on Saturday.

Reigning series champ Whincup edged McLaughlin in a thrilling finale that decided the 2017 championship and the pair already look the two main protagonists in this year's series.

Shell V-Power Ford racer and pole-sitter McLaughlin had to win it the hard way however having conceded the lead of the race at the first corner and spent the majority of the race trailing the Red Bull Racing Holden.

McLaughlin appeared to have the better speed and was able to get right on the back wing of the Holden but couldn't complete a move on the Australian during first stint of the race. Twice he followed Whincup into pit lane but was unable to jump him there either.


He finally made the crucial move on lap 41 and drove away over the closing 16 laps to record the race win and grab a one point lead of championship over Whincup.

"I think the battle between Shell V-Power Racing and Red Bull is fantastic and I am glad to be a part of it," McLaughlin said.

"I always have great battles with Jamie. Obviously last year was amazing but it is always sweet when you get on top."

Whincup conceded his rivals had the better package on the day.

"I gave it everything I had," Whincup said. "Scotty had a good start and I went around the outside but at the end of the day those guys did a better job. They have a very fast race car and Scotty did a good job.

"We'll work harder next time."

Rick Kelly wound back the clock to finish third and celebrate his 500th career race with a podium finish in what will be a confidence-boosting result for the factory-backed Nissan outfit.

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen produced a gutsy drive to hold on for fourth but had to battle almost the entire race without power-steering on a circuit notoriously for its high speed corners.

McLaughlin's Shell V-Power teammate Fabian Coulthard was disqualified from qualifying with a technical infringement and was relegated from the front row to the back of the field. He recovered to finish in 13th place.

Fellow Kiwis Andre Heimgartner and Richie Stanaway finished 15th and 19th respectively.
A second race awaits drivers on Sunday.